Microsoft Can Keep Selling Word, Says Appeals Court

Microsoft will be able to keep selling Microsoft Word as it appeals a high-profile patent-infringement case against small Canadian company i4i in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The original verdict ordered Microsoft to stop selling Word within 60 days, on top of paying nearly $300 million in fines to i4i, which alleged that Microsoft Word's code violated its XML-related patent.

Microsoft's request to keep selling Microsoft Word during an increasingly high-profile patent-infringement case has been granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The court issued the order, which reverses an earlier injunction that would have stopped sale of the software by the middle of October, on Sept. 3.

"We are happy with the result," Microsoft spokesperson Kevin Kutz told Reuters.

The original verdict, handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on Aug. 12, ordered Redmond to pay nearly $300 million in accumulated fines and pull from store shelves within 60 days all copies of Microsoft Word, which allegedly violates an XML-related patent held by a small Canadian firm, i4i. Microsoft's appeal in the case will be heard by the Federal Circuit on Sept. 23.

A full eWEEK breakdown of the patent can be found here.

Although Microsoft has wrestled with patent-infringement cases in the past, this case has become notable for the potentially devastating effects of the verdict if upheld. In an emergency motion filed on Aug. 18, Microsoft's legal counsel suggested that pulling Word would be devastating for both Redmond and consumers:

"Even if Microsoft ultimately succeeds on appeal, it will never be able to recoup the funds expended in redesigning and redistributing Word, the sales lost during the period when Word and Office are barred from the market, and the diminished goodwill from Microsoft's many retail and industrial customers."

In a sign of how the verdict could affect Microsoft's ecosystem, two separate companies, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, signaled their intention to file friend-of-the-court briefs in the case. As distributors of Microsoft software, both companies faced the specter of widespread fiscal damage should it be pulled from the shelves.

Meanwhile, the heads of i4i have publicly indicated that they intend to pursue the case to the bitter end.

"This is a vital case for inventors and entrepreneurial companies who, like i4i, are damaged by the willful infringement of their patents by competitors; particularly competitors as large and powerful as Microsoft," Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i, said in a statement after Microsoft filed its original appeal.

In a separate interview with eWEEK, Owen took a similarly tough position. "Where we come from, if someone tries to take something that belongs to you, you stand up to them; you don't just reach for the calculator," he said. "We're not in a position to guess or second-guess or speculate as to what the court is going to do."

Small IT companies have a history of both filing and winning patent-infringement lawsuits filed in the Texas court system, leading to an uptick of such cases in recent years against IT giants such as Microsoft and Apple.